Monday, April 30, 2007
Several years ago, my then 13 year old daughter asked if we could buy some canvasses so she could paint. Sure, I said, and then proceeded to pick up a brush and put paint to paper with her.
What a revelation. Suddenly I discovered a passion and a talent for something I had spent most of my life saying I was incapable of doing. With each dab of paint, I proved myself wrong about something I had held as my truth -- I have no artistic ability. With each brushstroke, I broke free of that self-limiting belief into acceptance. I didn't know I had artistic ability. Now I do. Today I paint with passion. Today, I get to experience the joy and wonder and peace of immersing myself into the creative process by revealing the stories that unfold every time I explore the surface of a canvas with the colours of the rainbow on my palette. With each brushstroke, I set myself free.
I wonder what other self-limiting beliefs I tout as truth hold me in place for fear I might fall, or make a mistake, or look foolish?
On Sunday, I attended the spiritual service at Choices. While sitting in the room, waiting for the service to begin, one of the trainees was telling me about her fear of claiming her unique voice.
"I can't do__________," she said with conviction.
"Have you ever done it?" I asked.
"No," she replied.
"Than how do you know you can't?"
She paused and thought about her answer. "I don't." We both smiled at her response.
A few minutes later the service began and our conversation settled into memory.
Until the pastor started talking about the story of my life. He wasn't specifically speaking about my life, but I could feel the chords of my heart vibrating in harmony with his words. He spoke in broad strokes about our spiritual journey on earth. About the gifts we come into the world with, and the cuts and bruises we acquire along the road that hold us down. About the untruths we tell ourselves because we fear our flaws will prevent us from claiming our right to be the awesome, magnificent, inspired creations of God we are designed to be.
And with every word, he was speaking about me.
I started painting several years ago and found a palette of my life I had never before used. I discovered colours and strokes and images and beauty I never dreamed I could create.
As I listened to the pastor, I thought about my self-limiting belief that had held me back from believing I could do something that brings me so much joy, so much peace.
What if my self-limiting beliefs about God are designed to hold me back? I wondered.
What if my fear of stepping into the void is keeping me from flying free?
What if, the hole in my heart can only be filled by a Love so great it encompasses every human being on planet earth, every star in our solar system, every limitless possibility of life?
What if I am the magnificent creation I am destined to be?
My belief that I cannot let go of my fear of God keeps me yearning for a love so great I cannot see the miracle of me reflected back in the eyes of those who love me and whom I love.
My belief that I cannot step into the never-ending story of love written long ago and carried through the centuries in the teachings of the Bible, holds me tethered to my fear of letting go of what I know so that I can explore what I don't know. What I know is so tiny compared to what I don't know. Is that what scares me?
As I sat and listened and experienced the words the pastor spoke, I felt the steady quiet beating of my heart within me. I felt tears tickle the back of my eyes, slip gracefully over my eyelids and slide down my cheeks. I felt my body ease into the possibility that I am a woman of wonder as I connected to the awesome wonder of everyone in that room. Like a child learning to take her first steps, I felt the possibility of the Truth inch its way into my heart. Tears began to flow like a warm shower of love inside me. I felt the constricting bands holding my fear in place begin to melt and fall away as the spirit within me awoke to the awesome truth. I am a Child of God. A beautiful, magnificent creation reflecting the wonder and glory of His universe when I breathe life into the miracle of all that I am meant to be.
An extremely wise and beautiful woman later expressed what I felt when she said, "I want to show everyone they are so incredible they take God's breath away."
May you journey through your day knowing the miracle of you is expressed in everything you do because you take God's breath away.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
What was most inspiring about the convesation was my daughters presence. At 21 she is grounded in her own truth. Self-aware, disciplined, courageous and loving.
As I listened and watched her interact with my friend, I was struck with the awe of having participated in the miracle of her birth. In that miracle we are forever joined in a circle of love that is unending.
What an awesome gift.
In that miracle, the circle of love I came into was expanded in every increasing depth.
I've come home to myself. Come home to love.
I don't have a lot of time to write -- 6 a.m. came really early this morning! I'll be back Monday to share stories of growth, of joy and of celebration.
Have an awesome weekend. May the miracle of your life connect you to the mystery and the beauty of living in love as your circle continues to expand like ripples on a pond.
Love, hugs and light.
Friday, April 27, 2007
She has lots to be proud of. Lots to celebrate. Yesterday was her last exam. Through the course of her two year diploma program in Theatre Arts, she has been on the Dean's List every semester. She's received two scholarships, the lead in several productions and has volunteered at the Drop-In, taken a personal development course and is volunteering as a coach for that course in June. She's got lots to be proud of and I'm proud of her.
The fact she imbibed a bit too much last night, is not indicative of a life on the rails, it's reflective of her tiredness, her exuberance and her forgetfulness!
This morning, she woke up and sheepishly asked, "How did I get so drunk?"
I could tell her but I'm sure she'll figure that out later today. The question is, will she remember the lesson next time she wants to celebrate and goes out drinking on an empty stomach. For better or worse, she is responsible for her decisions. Just like me.
I admire my daughters. Don't get me wrong. I don't agree with going out and getting drunk. Never could figure out how anyone could say they had a great time when they can't remember the events. When I was a teenager, however, I did not go out and get drunk. Didn't dare. The shame would have been a heavy burden. The condemnation from my parents too devastating. While my fear kept me safe, my resistance to 'letting it all hang out' kept me from experiencing life to the fullest, in the moment, without regret. As I've matured, I appreciate a glass of wine, and I recognize that wine does not make the memories, its who I am, who I'm with that makes the difference.
What I admire about my daughters is their acceptance of themselves. Their ability to 'Have Fun'. To act ridiculous and to accept themselves, just the way they are. I watch them building memories of this time in their life and am in awe of their laughter, their joy, their exuberance.
I don't remember having fun for the sake of having fun when I was a teenager. I remember a few funny situations. Times when fun was the purpose of what we did. But I don't remember the feeling of 'having fun'.
I was always too much in my head, too conscious of what other people were thinking of me, too fearful of looking stupid, or not pretty or even ugly to be free enough to just go have fun. To do that would have meant I had to leave my ego at home -- and my ego was never safe at home! I always had to take it with me.
For me, the question today becomes, where in my life do I continue to manifest the fear of having fun? Of just being me without worrying about the image I project?
I've read a lot and done a great deal around finding my 'authentic' self. I've dug into my core, roto-rootered through my psyche in search of the real me and always wondered, how will I know when I've found her?
As an 'observer', I have spent most of my life watching the world, trying to figure out where I fit in and how I relate. Observing kept me safe. Today, my mission is not to keep me safe, it's to put myself out there, to risk being unsafe, experiencing life outside my comfort zones so that I can become a more loving, caring, authentic human being capable of creating a loving world around me. I've given up looking for my authentic self. I've found her. She's here, right now, doing what she does in this moment, because, that's what she does -- pretty, ugly or pretty ugly -- what she does is a reflection of her beauty and the beast.
In my acceptance of being myself in this moment, my once passive voice has experienced a revolution. No longer willing to sit on the sidelines and observe injustice, wrong-doing or the destruction of the human spirit, I have become much more vocal and passionate about my speaking up. About stating my observations in a way that positions me as an agent of change.
In my history, being an observer kept me safe from ridicule. I could watch, and never speak up. As an observer, I filtered what I saw, what I perceived through my socialization, my conditioning, my personal habits and life style, my routines that trapped me in the process of doing, rather than being. My habit of staying silent led me into some very dark and dangerous pathways. My ability to speak up today keeps me safe as I step into each day confident in who I am. My value and values. My principles and beliefs.
To be me, I must become actively involved in my being.
To be my authentic self, it is my responsibility to move through observing into disclosure and ultimately into leadership. To be authentic, I must claim my light and stand without fear of the shadows around me.
I may never find the real mccoy, the authentic of my authentic me. Some days, the chaos of my life leaves me feeling as though I am not in relationship with anyone other than my head! In reality, I have been in relationship since the moment of my conception. Everything I have done, said, or become has been affected by and had an effect upon the world around me.
As a human being I am co-creator of my world. As John Dunne said, 'no man is an island'. In chaos theory, it is the relationship between objects that gives them value. A pebble on the beach, once removed and carried home, loses its lustre when taken out of context to the world in which it was found.
My authentic self, when dug into and exposed, loses its lustre when I isolate it from my world and place it on a shelf for future reference.
I am not an island.
Last night my daughter came home drunk and I was reminded of the past where I was too fearful to be myself without worrying about the opinion of others. Whatever lesson she takes from her experience, I will find my own and from that relationship will move further along in my journey of loving myself, just the way I am.
For today, I am committed to being who I am without fear that who I am is not enough. For today, I accept, I am enough.
May you travel today in the beauty of being enough, just the way you are.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Imagine a tape running through your head that has all the things that ever happened to you playing on a continous loop through your mind. Now, imagine that every time you look forward, every thought, idea, word, motion is filtered through that tape, again and again. Every time you think about the future, you have to look through the past.
That's what happens in our heads, every day, when we remind ourselves that something which happened yesterday is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That's what happens when we don't question what we learned in the past, and drag it forward with unrelenting loyalty into the present. Our future is predicated upon what we do today. When what we do today is founded on what we experienced in the past, rather than what we learned, we are 'doomed' to repeat the experiences without learning the lessons.
What happened in the past, is the past. It's history. And, it doesn't need to repeat itself as long as we take care today to assess what we learned about ourselves and look at the world through our eyes of understanding, rather than our eyes of fear.
Learning from the past is not about what other people did to me. It's about what I did in response to what other people were doing. My learning comes when I focus on me, not when I focus on someone else, through trying to change them, or deny them from their own truth by trying to force my truth on them.
When I awoke from the nightmare of an abusive relationship to the reality of my life the day the police walked in and arrested my abuser, I had to accept that what was real that morning was my life in that instant -- it wasn't my life forever more -- it was simply my life in that moment. Now, there wasn't an awful lot right with my life -- but I was alive -- and, being alive meant I knew I would be able to heal, to make changes, to take steps forward that would create the life of my dreams, as long as I didn't drag the mistakes of the past with me and as long as I didn't hold him accountable for my life. Yes, he had done many things that were wrong -- he is/was accountable for those things. But, if I kept repeating the things he had done, how he had harmed me, hurt me, abused me, I was holding myself tied to him. He was gone. I needed to keep him gone and the best way to do that was to turn up for me, in all my beauty, pain, sorrow, warts and all.
Letting go of the past is challenging. Our minds are conditioned to believe the voice of fear that keeps whispering -- Be careful. Don't do that. Don't move. Watch out! You're too hurt to move forward. Look what happened the last time you did that, trusted someone, went there, said that....
The truth is, if the past didn't kill you in its passing, it can't kill you today. The past has no power to hurt you. But it can haunt you, because keeping it alive through memory can cause you pain today.
I create what I fear.
When I fear the past, I recreate it, every day, in my mind. If anyone has read or watched The Secret, they'll understand the truth of this statement. If you keep your thoughts focussed on replaying what happened in the past, those will be the thoughts you surround yourself with, every day. And those thoughts will create the life you see in your head.
When I was set free from that relationship, almost 4 years ago, I had to make a choice. Do I want the past to become my future? Do I want to carry the weight of what happened to me with me as I healed? The answer was NO!
I wanted to live the life of my dreams. I'd just come through my worst nightmare. Why repeat it?
To ensure I didn't repeat it, I had to look at what happened to me, within me, by me, and let go of what he did. I had to hold myself accountable for every action, step, idea, thought I had had that created the devestation that was in my life that morning when I was set free.
In holding myself 100% accountable for everything I had done and for all that my life had become, I gave myself the grace and power to be accountable for 100% of what I did from that moment forward.
Don't get me wrong, there was no magic wand that was going to make my life 'all right' over night. I was psychologically bruised and battered. I was homeless. Penniless. Jobless. I needed time to heal. To soothe my wounded soul and nurture my spirit back to well-being. I needed to treat myself with tender loving care.
I was very fortunate. I had a sister who, along with her husband, gave me a safe and welcoming place to stay. They were my angels in those first months of recovery. They gave me a place to catch my breath so that I could stabilize myself enough to begin to take one step forward every day.
Like Joe Simpson of mountain climbing fame who crawled his way out of a crevasse in a glacier with a broken leg because he didn't want to die freezing to death on a ledge and figured he may as well keep moving towards the pinprick of light he saw in the distance, once I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, I kept moving. I kept taking one step forward, every single day, to ensure I healed the wounds and didn't let the past fester in my veins. I took care every day to count my blessings and I took care of me -- tenderly, gently -- I had been abused. I did not need my own voice to add to the damage. I needed my voice to encourage me, support me, love me.
I turned up for me.
Four years later, I continue to take care of myself with tender loving care. I deserve it.
There is no sense in my telling myself -- I will never heal. or, I will never forgive myself, or him, or anyone else for that matter who has ever harmed me. There is no sense in holding my pain in place like a butterfly on a mat. When I do that, no matter how far I extend my wings, they will never fly for they will be pinnioned beneath the glass, frozen in time.
What are you holding onto from the past as a truth today? Is it 'true' or is it something you believe based on what happened back then that you keep replaying for fear it 'might' happen again. Ask yourself, can it be duplicated exactly the same way today? Is that actually possible? Is that what I want in my life today? Is that who I am?
Life is full of change. It's constant. Continuous. Fluid. This page, blank a moment ago, is now filled with letters that make up words. It has changed in the 15 mintues it's taken me to write it.
Change is here to stay.
When we hold onto the past, we are resisting change. When we resist change, we resist living freely.
Embrace your life today. In this moment. Exactly the way it is. Love yourself today. In this moment. Exactly the way you are. Let the past go, sweep away regret and doubt and fear and anger and step into the freedom of living this moment without the fear that what once was has to be again.
It doesn't have to be! It's your choice!
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students "Is the jar full?"
They agreed it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again, "Is the jar full?"
They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous, "Yes."
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor, as the laughter subsided,"I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - Family, children, health. Friends, and favorite passions --Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter. Like your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else -- The small stuff."
"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. So... Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play With your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal."
"Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented.
The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."
An element of this story that I find inspiring is the realization that -- if our lives are filled with the things that count, like family and friends and health and passions, then the other 'stuff', the stuff that irritates us, undermines us, unfocuses us, has to fill in around the important 'stuff'.
It's like walking on a beach. Remember the warm silky feel of the sand when you walk along the water's edge. As soon as you step out of the water, the sand becomes harsh, grainy, gritty. In the water, it's less irritating against our skin, it moves aside to let us pass, ebbing and flowing into our footsteps. In life, if we stay in the 'flow' of our life, moving elegantly and gracefully with the waters, the sand is a spongy foundation that supports us as we walk. It fills in the gaps, but doesn't weigh us down with pain and irritation.
When our lives are filled with what's important to us, we don't feel the pain and hassle and worry of the every day things that pop up on life's road to distract us. We are not as easily pulled off centre when we focus on what's important.
Recently, an awesome friend and an incredible woman phoned me because her mother had just been rushed to hospital here and she was flying in. When I picked her up at the airport she was understandably upset. What inspires me about my girlfriend is (and she has a really busy life in another city, travels and works hard), she dropped everything and came to help. She is focused on finding solutions that will help her mother in what is proving to be a very stressful situation. My girlfriend isn't moaning and groaning about 'Why me.", "I don't have time for this." etc. She's doing what's right and necessary to ensure her mother is well cared for.
Her jar is filled with the things that are important to her -- and taking care of her mother is important to her. She isn't letting those irritating pebbles and the sandy grit of life deter her from her path. She's not letting blisters grow by grinding her heels against the problems -- she's focusing on what's important.
In the midst of all this, she wrote to tell me someone has scanned her debit card and was withdrawing money on a daily basis.
She didn't grumble or complain. She took care of what was necessary, reported the crime and is continuing to stay focused on what she needs to do to ensure her mother gets the care she needs, while also handling her busy job and taking care of herself.
I know for my girlfriend that this is not an easy time. It's not fun watching a parent's mental state deteriorate. It's not fun having to make life choices for a parent.
But, she's turning up. She's being the amazing woman she is and staying focused on the important things in her life, while taking care of the other things in her life that need to be tended, her job, her passions, her career. She's not opting out of the situation, she's not trying to foist the responsibility onto someone else. She's taking charge.
She inspires me.
My commitment today is to walk in the flow of my life, and to stay off the gritty path. I am committed to stay focused on what is important to me. On what, if everything else were lost, would still have great value -- my family, friends, my health and my passions. Oh, and did I mention my pooch, Ellie?
May your day be filled with what's important to you, and may the grit of the sands melt into the gently flowing waters of your life. And may you have time to walk with a friend and enjoy a cup of coffee.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
I walked into that room thinking, get real. You can't end homelessness.
Truth is: without a target you won't even get close to making an impact.
One of the speakers was from New York City where they have been working on their 10 year plan for the past 3 years. When the original 10 year plan was submitted, Mayor Bloomberg, who was just starting his new 5 year term said -- great plan. Do it in 5 years.
And so the target date was shifted, timelines tightened and the hard work began.
And they're making inroads. Throughout his speech, the presenter continually referred to the date at which he must go to the Mayor and prove he's reduced homelessness to less than 1,400 individuals in New York City -- an aggressive target considering he began with 40,000 homeless individuals. That date is: Midnight, December 31, 2009.
What struck me about his speech is that the date is the key to setting everything in motion. That target date is SMART. It's specific, measurable, achievable and realistic (at least he's working towards making it achievable!) and its timely. There's little wriggle room in that date -- and in his speech he didn't spend a great deal of time complaining, justifying why it can't be met, or even trying to change the Mayor's mind. That's the date. Let's go for it is his attitude.
What I realize about my goals is -- many of them don't have a specific date or measurement. i.e. I have a goal of being 'financially secure', but I haven't attached a number or date to that figure.
To be successful, to actually be able to hit my target, I must quantify my goal. Make the dollar amount real -- it's much easier to imagine a $100 bill than it is to imagine, 'some money'. And, I need to have a 'get to' date in order to ensure I get to it!
What about you? Do you have goals that leave you too much wriggle room to miss hitting your target? Are your goals SMART?
Do you have numbers, dates attached that you can actually 'see' them, cross them off on a calendar and imagine what it feels like to hold?
Years ago I read a book on writing a screenplay in 21 days. Before creating the outline, writing character sketches etc., the first set of instructions was to create the title page complete with screenplay title, your name and address and contact info, and then insert 93 sheets of blank paper behind the title page and then a page with The End. The next step was to pick up 'my' screenplay, close my eyes and feel it, see it, imagine it as the completed document. And then -- get to work writing. I had 21 days to do it.
It worked. In 21 days I had a first draft. The first draft wasn't perfect -- but it was a first draft I could edit -- and definitely better than no draft at all, or a half completed draft I was stumbling through towards an ill-defined end with no clear idea of when I'd get there. That plan worked because I had a clear target, a set of tools to guide me in the process, I had a date I had to reach and I had a vision that was tangible of what my end product would look like.
Having a target date, a measurable goal (i.e. decreasing homelessness from 40,000 to below 1,400 in 5 years), it is possible to create a set of rules, guidelines, tools, actions that will move you towards your goal.
One of the things the speaker from NYC said that really caught my imagination affirmed what I wrote yesterday about taking some action. "Start taking action today. Let the future plan unfold as you move forward. Every plan needs to be adjusted as you get going. You will make mistakes. Be flexible. Be creative. Let the lessons from today guide your actions tomorrow. But take action today."
Do you have a vision of your future that isn't in motion? What are you waiting for? Get moving today towards creating the life of your dreams by writing down your goals. Make sure you attach dates and numbers so that you can imagine them every day. Create a book of dreams. In it, paste pictures of the house you want to live in by the beach. The car you want to drive. Paste in pictures of you and your family doing things you love to do -- and if you don't have pictures of you sailing around the world, cut out one from a magazine and use it! Create a book of dreams that reflects the life you believe can be yours, is yours, when you start living your dreams today. Hold those images in your mind every day and start creating the life you deserve.
Monday, April 23, 2007
The lecturer yesterday used Joe as an example of being relentlessly committed to taking some action -- only action is action. Only progress is progress.
Joe's partner couldn't feel the weight on the rope because Joe was unconcious on the other end and couldn't tug on it to tell him he was lying on a ledge in the crevasse -- not dangling from the rope. His partner finally left him and continued with his descent. Joe awoke and realized where he was, and that his partner had left. He lay on the ledge facing probable death and spent the first night crying in despair. Eventually, exhausted, angry that his life had come to this, he thought, "I can lie here and wait for death, or I can take some action, whether for better or worse."
Terrified, he started to crawl down off the ledge he was on. He didn't know if he would plummet further, or find another ledge. He found another ledge! And then another. Each ledge taking him closer to the pinprick of light he saw at the end of the darkness. Eventually, after four days of dragging his broken leg behind him, he crawled out of the bottom of the glacier, mere feet away from the campsite where his partner had just come back to with a team of locals to try to find Joe's body.
If Hoe hadn't taken some action, he would not be alive today.
When I listened to this story yesterday, I cried. I read Joe's book about that journey, Into the Void, while I was mired in the relationship that almost took my life. Yesterday, what struck me was the realization that when with Conrad, I never took some action that would set me free. I had given up so entirely on myself that I could not, would not, did not take some action. I wanted to be free of him, but held myself still in the arms of his abuse because the only path to freedom I could envisage was to die.
Tears are healing, and yesterday's connection to Joe's story has awoken me to the realization and importance of taking some action every day that will move me closer to my goals. I am committed to taking one step after the other that will keep me moving in forward progress towards what I want.
I've listed my goals. Mapped out a path towards them and am moving forward.
What about you?
Have you a vision of your ultimate life? Do you have clearly defined, SMART goals you are working towards? Near term. Medium term. Long term.
SMART goals are: Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Realistic. Timely.
Do you have a list of steps you need to take to reach your goals?
If not. What's holding you back? Is there some action you can take today to bring you one step closer to a goal?
Remember: If you're doing nothing about reaching your goals, you're not making progress!
If your goal is to lead a magnificent life -- take some action today!
Neil Armstrong once said upon landing on the moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Your small step today will turn into a giant leap forward towards your goal.
Let's leap together and create the life of our dreams.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I love to bake. I love the satisfaction of taking a host of singular ingredients and blending them together to create an edible delight. I love to glow in the aftermath of baking. To revel in the thrill of taste buds bursting in the mouths of those I love while a message of warmth and joy explodes in their hearts.
Aside from the joy I get from baking, however, I relish the life lessons that sometimes unexpectedly combust out of the creative process.
Like raising children, baking is a science. You can’t just take a haphazard bunch of ingredients and throw them together in the hope they will gel into something palatable. To succeed, you need to understand both the science of how ingredients work together and the exact methodology of combining them to get the desired reaction. It’s not unlike mixing oil and water. You can’t force the two to combine, but you can get them to bond upon a piece of bread.
Just like mixing a hormonal teenager with a menopausal mother. To avoid getting a rise out of every occasion, use love as the main ingredient, avoid sprinkling salt over raw emotion, and incorporate empathy as the bond that tides you over discord.
Doesn't matter how carefully I follow the recipe, however, I can always cook up a good lesson for myself out of the rawest of ingredients.
Recently I wanted something sweet to sustain my daughters while I was gone for the weekend. Chocolate Chip cookies seemed like the perfect answer. Now, Chocolate Chip cookies are part science, part love. To achieve that melt in your mouth perfect blend of sweetness and chewiness, warm gooey goodness that settles on your tongue like dew on a rose and permeates your senses with fragrant delight, ‘creaming together’ will ensure the main ingredients will ensure they are blended to silky perfection.
Like the limit on my credit card, however, perfection has a way of evaporating when I pay more attention to its attainment than to what I’m doing. Sometimes, all it takes is a little lump of sugar to ruin a perfect moment. On this day it wasn’t a particularly large lump, nor even all that hard. But it was the perfect size to slip between the beaters of my electric mixer, from one side to the other of the bowl, without breaking down. I couldn’t leave it the way it was. If left undeterred it would be a huge flaw in the perfection of my cookies. I had to take action. I had to teach it a lesson.
Now, I know I should use a utensil to break apart recalcitrant lumps and other errant ingredients. I know I should put my mind in gear and turn the machine off before putting any utensil or body part into the bowl. But, on this occasion, my mind drifting in thought, miles away, I used the most convenient object at my disposal. My left hand. It didn’t take long to realize my mistake. With a scream, I threw the bowl across the counter and pulled my hand away. The mixer came with it. I stared in disbelief. The shiny metal of the beaters bit into the skin of my hand. My fingers protruded from between their enclosure. I could move them, but they hurt. Lots.
I pounded the switch to eject the beaters. They were jammed tight into the body of the machine. The pain in my hand was excruciating. I looked for blood. No broken skin. I searched for solutions. There was no one home. Crying out for help was useless. I thought of running across the street to my neighbor's, but they were away. Finally, I realized I’d have to do it on my own. I gritted my teeth, took a breath and used my right hand to pry the beaters apart. I wanted to scream at them, “Don’t be so stubborn!” I wanted to rip my left hand from their grip. But they wouldn’t give an inch. Tears streaming down my face, my hand on fire, my senses crying out in pain, I finally forced a small opening between the beaters and extracted my hand. I wiggled my fingers tentatively. Nothing broken.
I filled a bag with ice and lay down on the couch. I struggled to find a position that would give some relief from the pain that seared up my arm with the intensity of ice shards shattering on cement. I pushed back the tears and lay there in sullen misery.
And that is how my eldest daughter found me when she came home from school an hour later. She opened the front door, called out a cheerful, “I’m home!” as my conscious mind flew out into the chill of the evening.
She eyed me sitting on the couch, my hand wrapped up in a towel. “I had a fight with the mixer,” I ruefully blurted out as she entered the living room. “It won.”
“That was a stupid thing to do,” she replied before she’d even taken off her coat.
As if I didn’t know! I knew what I’d done probably qualified me for first place in the Darwin Awards. I didn’t need her reminder. I attacked back. “Shall I run and get the cleaver so you can finish me off?”
“That’s not fair,” my daughter cried. “I was only teasing you.”
“What’s not fair is walking in and immediately criticizing me,” I asserted. “I don’t like being called stupid.”
“I didn’t call you stupid. I just said it was a stupid thing to do.”
Amazing! My high horse came riding in without my even calling for it. “I could hear it in the tone of your voice.”
“I was only trying to make you laugh.”
“Ha! You weren’t joking.” With a self-absorbed huff, and a barely audible, “I made you chocolate chip cookies”, I carried my bag of ice and aching hand off to bed. I’m ashamed to admit the words, ‘and I hope you choke on them’ might have crossed my mind as I tossed martyrdom onto the pyre of our discord with the slam of my bedroom door.
My twenty-year old daughter, unaccustomed to my taking centre stage with such childish behaviour, came storming after me. “You slammed the door on me!” she cried. Her wide-eyed shock and incredulous voice barely penetrated the cocoon of darkness the covers made over my head.
“I don’t care,” I mumbled from beneath my blankets.
“You told me never to slam a door.”
“My hand hurts,” I moaned.
“Then why didn’t you just tell me rather than laughing about it when I came in the front door?”
Rational thinking is not high on my list of things to do when I’m in pain, but as I reflected upon my actions and combined them with her words, the reality of the situation rose up like yeast expanding gluten. I had acted out of frustration and poured burning oil on the troubled waters of my aching hand. It was time to climb off my high horse and take up the reins of adulthood once again.
“I apologize,” I said, pulling the covers from above my head.
“Harrumph,” replied my daughter, warily eyeing me from the doorway of my bedroom, one hand on the doorknob, the other on her hip.
We stared at each other for a moment before I smiled sheepishly. “It was a stupid thing to do,” I said.
“Doesn’t mean you’re stupid,” she replied, using my oft used response when as a child, she would call herself stupid and I would quickly remind her that doing something stupid does not make you stupid, just perfectly human. She moved towards the bed. I patted the covers with my good hand, inviting her to crawl in beside me.
“Does this mean there’s blood in the cookie dough?” she asked.
I laughed. “Nope.” I held up my wounded hand. “See. No broken skin. No broken bones. Just a great big gob of wounded pride.”
And that’s when the lesson hit home. Baking is one part science, one part mystery. Understanding the elements, being willing to experiment with ingredients and trust in the process is critical to achieving edible delights that please the palate and enliven the spirit. My fingers weren’t broken. I didn’t need stitches. The cookies were made. My hand would heal and eventually so would my pride.
Was I willing to learn from my mistake? Was I willing to look at what I’d done when I put my hand into the bowl with the intent of breaking down a lump of sugar that was not cooperating with my desires? Was I willing to ask myself, where else do I do that in my life? Where else do I throw caution aside and use brute force to pummel people and things to conform to my needs?
Ask my daughter. She’ll be happy to tell you. Our harmonious existence is often disrupted when I react without recognizing that we are singular ingredients that only mix well together when blended with loving care and bonded with consideration for our unique qualities.
When she walked in the door, I was looking for a fight. I couldn’t beat up my mixer. It had already won that battle. In my frustration and pain, I dashed her spirits with my salt-brined response without conciously thinking about what I wanted to create; harmony or discord.
Anyone can make chocolate chip cookies. Like parenting, creating a cookie that melts in your mouth and warms your spirit requires loving care and an adherence to the steps that ensure the outcome is a reflection of the journey it took to get there.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Inertia is my resistance to change. For example, I have set a target to lose 10 lbs. My resistance to that loss increases everytime I do something that takes me further from my goal. In a day, I have a multitude of opportunities to step closer to my goal. I also have an equal number of opportunities to step away from it. As Newton's Third Law of Motion states, For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Whatever decision I make will take me in a direction that increases or decreases my inertia, which according to my buddy Newton's First Law of Motion means, my inertia will increase the greater the mass of my unhealthy choices.
Makes sense -- remember, Avoidance strengthens fear. Avoidance is not a form of inertia, it is my inertia on the rise.
In Stephen Covey's, The 8th Habit, he states, "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and our happiness."
Everyday when I come home from work, I have the opportunity to make a choice to support my goal to lose weight, or to move myself further from it. My choices have habitually not taken me closer. Those moments just after I walk into the house are my period of least resistance. Without concious choice, I inevitably do the opposite of my desired outcome.
When I walk into the house I am generally tired, have low energy and little resolve to stick to my healthy, supportive eating regimen. One little bite in the wrong direction will take me over the precipice of 'pigging out' on unhealthy foods.
My awareness of the danger zone that time of day represents means I need to take action that will keep me in a forward movement towards achieving my goal of losing weight.
If I consider my thinking to be a 'mass', my thinking weighs heavily upon my ability to change my state of being.
That applies to more than just losing weight. When I was first released from an abusive relationship four years ago, my thinking was a huge weight upon my forward motion. I had to change my state of being by moving my thinking away from him, and onto me. I had great resistance. Inertia, the desire to 'do nothing' which I had adopted while in that relationship, was a heavy substance clinging to every fibre of my body. I felt like I was walking through quicksand, drowning beneath the weight of my sorrow.
To change my state of being, I had to continually, constantly keep moving forward, away from my negative self-talk, into my positive state of being so that I could decrease my resistance to change.
I had to make choices that reflected the life I wanted by turning away from the life I didn't want -- being an abused woman.
One of the actions I took as a Power-Up when I was feeling low, was to remind myself of something I did in the past that I was proud of.
This simple step made an enormous difference in my ability to work against the mass of my sorrow so that I could move into joy. Rather than remind myself of how stupid, ugly, naive, etc. I was to have stayed in that relationship, I chose to focus on something I was proud of myself so that I could lessen the load of my negative thoughts about myself and replace them with positive ones. My negative thoughts were the mass I fought against, blocking me from moving from despair into joy. My positive thoughts were lighter, more affirming, less cumbersome to wield around. I used them to change my state.
While I know that there is no physical weight to positive or negative thoughts, negative thinking feels denser, heavier, more weighty than positive thinking. Negative thinking increases the mass of negativity through which I must move to create a positive state of being. The greater the mass of my negative thinking, the greater the inertia and thus, the more energy I will have to expend to create a change of state.
Think about two bricks on a table. They look identical. But one is solid gold, the other styrofoam. How do you determine which is gold without picking them up? You move both sideways. The one with less mass will be more easy to move sideways.
Are there things in your life, things you've done, accomplished, that you are proud of? They are like the gold. They are the weighty substance that form the foundation of your joy. You want to identify the gold, and stay away from that which has no substance, no value in your life, negative thinking.
When trying to create change, focus on the positive aspects of your life so that you fill the space of negativity with light. Light weighs more than darkness (at least in my mind it does!). Light can be moved through with grace. Darkness needs careful, deliberate motion. In the dark we hit objects, stub our toes and fall down. Stay in the light of your being and lessen your inertia to creating change so that every step you take propels you closer to your goals.
Friday, April 20, 2007
No matter who you talk to in the city right now, the phrase, "I'm tired of this weather!" is on everyone's tongue.
Snow in April is just not right. Right or wrong, we've got it.
Can't change the weather. Best to change my disposition.
I awoke this morning feeling anxious. I have so many things on my to do list, I wonder where to start. In my indecision, my hesitancy to get going, I deplete my power. I'm using up more energy not doing what I need to do than it would take to get started.
Every moment life is filled with the opportunity to take steps that bring me closer to my goals, or further away from my goals.
One of my dreams is to have my book, The Dandelion Spirit, read by Oprah Winfrey. Problem is, I haven't sent it to her yet! In my inaction, my dream is turning to dandelion fluff -- it has no substance. No target. No path to creation. To get closer to my goal, I need to send my book. My commitment today is to send it to her.
Today, I am committed to taking actions that bring me closer to my goals.
What about you?
What goal do you have, secret or expressed, that you are not taking steps towards? Every time you 'do nothing', or do not take appropriate action, you are getting further from your goal. Every time, you do something that undermines your ability to step towards your goal, you strengthen your fear of moving forward as you move further from where you want to get.
Avoidance strengthens fear.
For example, I used to say, I hate paying bills. Since online banking, however, I've discovered, it's not paying bills I don't like, it's the logistics of writing out a cheque, getting it into an envelope, finding a stamp, and then driving around to find a postbox (plus remembering to dig the envelopes out of my glove box if I can find them!) that made bill payment unpleasant. With online banking, it's easy and I take care of it every month in a timely manner! Without the worry of 'will I get the cheque written out and in the mail on time', and my continual avoidance of doing it because I imagined it as a daunting task, I have lessened my fear of paying bills and freed up time to take positive steps towards my goals -- one of them being to be financially secure.
I have been working through an online course called, Simple-ology 101. In listening to the course every morning, I've become aware of a script running through my brain. It has to do with trust.
One of my childhood scripts I'm beginning to realize is "Don't trust in your dreams. You'll only get hurt." I'm not sure where it came from. If it was my father or mother, a teacher, or girl guide leader -- doesn't really matter. I can hear the sibilant whisper of that script running through my mind. I feel it's power in my adult life and recognize that it is negatively impacting my movement forward towards my goals.
Whatever the source of the script, it is my responsibility today to assess it, determine its validity in my life and then to take action that will unhook its negative force so that I can plug myself into my power so that I take positive action towards realizing my dreams and accomplishing my goals.
Awareness is a key force in my life. When I look outside, I see the snow and think, UGH. Sometimes, when I look inside me, I feel the force of past habits, habitual thinking, unhealthy choices and think UGH.
I am aware of the snow. I can't change it -- just like I can't change people.
I can change me by focussing on what's within me and taking action to create what I want.
I have the power to redirect my thoughts, change my actions, and create the life of my dreams.
I have the power to be all that I am meant to be.
So do you!
Let's do it.
My commitment -- and goal -- is to have my letter written and my book mailed to Oprah by Monday.
And before I forget -- I've lost 3 of my 10 pounds!
Thursday, April 19, 2007
The dinner was attended by over 60 people. The tables were covered with linen tablecloths and serviettes. China and silverware was at each place setting and the room was lit by the soft glow of candelight. A big difference from the chaotic and noisy dining room on the second floor of the building where dinner is served to over 800 people a sitting.
As I was greeting guests last night I was struck by the gratitude each person expressed as they walked into room. "Hey. This is nice!" "Haven't had a candelit dinner in years." "This is for me? Wow." "Cool." The comments were simple. Appreciative and reflective. Each guest felt part of a moment in time away from the rigors and fears of homelessness. The meal was a scrumptious buffet of salads, roasted chicken and potatoes or lasagne, a cheese plate with fruit, delectable delights and coffee.
Before all the guests had arrived, people entered the room and sat down. At one point, someone came up to me and asked, "Is it okay if I pour myself a glass of water?" "Of course," I replied. A few moments later someone else asked, "May I pour myself a cup of coffee?" "Help yourself," I replied.
After about the third or fourth person came up and asked if they could help themselves to water, I realized it was time to take action. I picked up a jug and walked around the tables offering people water. As I went, I reminded them that there was coffee they could help themsleves to.
This may not seem like a big issue to you, but to someone who is homeless, who must wait in line for just about everything, who must wake up when told, go to bed when told, cannot just pour themselves a glass of water at will or make a cup of coffee when they want because they don't have a kitchen of their own, being able to simply stand up and get a cup of coffee is a big thing.
What struck me even more, however, was the hesitancy with which people asked if it was okay to help themselves to something so simple as water. The night before we'd had a dinner for corporate volunteers, and no one asked if they could get water or coffee. They just did it.
For our client volunteers, conditioned to having to ask for the simplest things, having an entire evening dedicated to them was refreshing and sad all in one. It reminded them of all that they have lost. It reminded them of where they're at in their lives versus where they want to be or could be or should be... if only... And, as several people commented, "I'm not used to having so much to eat. My stomach has shrunk. Is there some way I can wrap up my leftovers and save them for later?"
There were a lot of emotions in the air last night, the most prevelant being -- gratitude.
There is so much in my life I take for granted. A cup of coffee I brew myself every morning. A piece of toast made when I want. A computer to work on when I need it. The house a temperature I decide because I have control of the thermostat.
For many of our client volunteers, they arrived at the dinner after putting in a day's work at a close to minimum wage job. The reasons why they are homeless are complex and varied. But the simple truth is true for all of them -- they are grateful for what the Drop-In provides them on a daily basis -- it may not be perfect but it sure beats being out in the cold. Last night, their gratitude was a tangible force. The thank-you's were heartfelt. Their smiles warm. Their laughter genuine.
As I listened to the people gathered in the room last night, there was no difference between their behaviour and the behaviour of the group the night before. They all knew what a fork and knife was and how to use them. They all put their serviettes on their laps. They chatted and laughed and told jokes with those at the table with them.
What was different was their attitude.
Last night, a glass of water made a difference. Last night, people saw their glass as half full and were grateful for each sip they took.
Next time you pick up a glass of water, think about what it means to be able to pour it at will.
You are blessed.
May we all have the blessing of asking for what we want today and recieving it.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
My perceptions about anger are based on a childhood spent in an often angry household. My ability to deal with anger is based on learning from what happened in my home by hearing and watching my parents fight -- my father yelled, my mother cried. My sister and I would hide in our bedroom. I'd escape into a book and pretend everything was a-ok. Sometimes, we'd hide under the covers and hold each other. I'd console her while she cried and I would chatter away about other things. I'd tell her stories. Make up poems. Do whatever it took to keep both of us feeling as safe as we could while what we perceived to be WW3 raged outside our bedroom door.
As an adult, I recognize that my childhood perceptions of how grave those arguments between my parents were is somewhat faulty. Challenge is, those childhood perceptions are the foundation of my adult behaviours, and I look at anger through my child's eyes. Until I'm willing to accept responsibility today for what I feel, my response to my feelings of anger will always be the same -- based on childhood beliefs that are not true for me today. Ultimately, whatever I think or fear about anger, if I don't respect myself, including my anger, I will always respond as a child.
Anger is an emotion. Like all emotions, it comes and it goes and if it's not released, it festers.
Challenge is, finding a healthy way to express anger when all I've ever known how to do is pretend it doesn't exist.
In yesterday's session, one of the questions I asked was, "What do you do to get even?"
My way of 'getting even' is to withdraw, go silent. My brain may be working at a kazillion light years a minute but I am too busy stuffing words down my own throat, smiling away and pretending nothing is wrong to have time or the courage to get words or feelings out!
Someone else said, they like to make fun of the person they're mad at, and someone else suggested they liked to get creative and find the meanest thing they could do.
Now, I don't believe getting even is a good idea. It doesn't create honest communication based on integrity, reciprocity and respect. Challenge is, sometimes, my feelings, my triggers, my habitual responses, override my 'thinking' and I retreat into my self-defeating game of withdrawal and using silence as a manipulative tool -- before I recognize I've left the conversation. Sometimes, I'm so busy smiling and pretending I'm not angry, I never take the time to take my own temperature. When I ignore my feelings, I am creating a problem, not behaving with integrity and ultimately, not speaking my truth in a way that respects and honours me and those around me.
When my daughters were little I used to tell them, "You have a right to your anger. How you express it is your responsibility. No matter how angry you are, it never gives you the right to be cruel."
As I've gotten in touch with my anger, I've begun to recognize its power -- to create and to destroy. Anger, when expressed with the intention to create better communication, can break down fences and build bridges of understanding. Anger when unexpressed will destroy my peace of mind, eat away at my conscience. Anger inappropriately expressed will tear apart a loving relationship, breakdown trust and communication and cause pain in someone else's heart.
For example. Yesterday when I got home I found the living room cluttered with my daughters things. UGH! I love to come home to a tidy living room. My mind immediately went to that place of criticism of their behaviour. "How many times do I have to tell them. Why can't they... blah blah blah blah blah." All the while, I'm picking up their stuff, dumping it in their rooms or at the top of the stairs for my youngest daughter to take to her own room. Too angry to settle down to doing the things I'd intended to do when I got home, I let my mind rage around what I perceived to be their lack of consideration, respect, ill-manners, blah, blah, blah. As I angrily picked up their stuff I thought about the laundry I needed to do, the floor that needed sweeping, the kitchen counters that needed cleaning. And I did those chores too! Within an hour I had taken the dogs for a walk and tidied the house the way I wanted it -- and I had the laundry going, dinner in the oven for a friend who was coming over, and I'd had a cup of tea.
I got a lot accomplished in that hour because my anger propelled me forward. I'm grateful for getting all of that done -- but, there was another way I could have accomplished it without letting anger burn its way into my peace of mind. I could have taken the dogs for a walk and while walking, rather than being irritated with my daughters and indulging in a bunch of negative self-talk, I could have stepped into the enjoyment of spending time outside enjoying the fresh air and my dogs' antics. When I came home, I could still have accomplished what I did -- but I could have chosen to do it with a loving heart instead of an angry one.
I don't believe it's right that my daughters leave their stuff lying around. I don't believe that's acceptable behaviour. Fortunately, both my daughters were at work until late last night and I didn't have a chance to vent AT them. Today, I have the opportunity to discuss WITH them how I feel about walking into a home that is cluttered with their stuff, versus one that resembles the space I left in the morning when I went to work.
Last night, I got a reprieve from expressing my anger negatively. Today, I have the gift of time to express it lovingly with the intent to create mutual respect, honesty and cooperation with my daughters.
My anger can be a tool to create more of what I want in my life and less of what I don't. When I'm clear on my intent, my anger is not a weapon but simply an emotion that flows through me, in the moment. How I experience it and express it can give me a headache or peace of mind. It's up to me.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." - Theodore Roosevelt
Yesterday I was speaking with a girlfriend about a man who runs an establishment I am not particularly fond of. I don't know this man. I've heard lots of conjecture, lots of criticism of him, his business practices and his business. But I've never personally met him.
Still, I criticize him. I deride his business. I question his ethics.
But I've never met him and those I listen to who cast aspersions on his character have never met him either.
My girlfriend is doing some work for him. She met with him yesterday and was telling me about his sincerity and compassion. "I believe he was telling the truth when he told me, I really care about these people. I want to help them."
Like me, my girlfriend had heard the rumours, conjectures, criticisms about this man and went to meet him with a preconceived idea of who she would encounter. She came away humbled.
I work for a homeless shelter. Everyday I hear things about this man that paint a picture of an unfeeling, uncaring, unethical person.
I believed these things without ever asking the man himself about if any of it is true.
It makes me pause and think.
How many times do I simply believe gossip. Other people's opinions. What other people say about someone without stepping into the ring and finding my own truth? How many times do I stand with the critics and point out the failures and stumbles of those actually in the arena, their faces marred by dust and sweat and blood.
For today, my goal is to be the wrestler lying on the mat, panting for breath, his spirit towering above the spectators who cheer him on, or boo him for lying down. For today, my goal is to participate. Not spectate.
May we all know the great enthusiams of taking our best shot and never giving up on doing our best. May we all feel the great devotions that break our hearts and force them open to love, and the joy of knowing, in victory or defeat we gave it our all and have achieved our best.
Monday, April 16, 2007
The day awaits, there's lots to do and I'm feeling sluggish, lazy, like I want to grab a good book and curl up in bed for a couple of hours.
Not going to happen.
I dropped Betts at the airport last night and we said good-bye. We both agreed it was a fun weekend, and one that's worth repeating, hopefully sooner than 30 years!. We also thought it would be fun to track down a few of the 'gang from Grade 7. There were about 6 of us who hung out. The 'In Crowd' as Bets called it. We were Betts, Georgette, Deb, Doug, Monty, Don and me. In Betts' memory, the crowd revolved around me. In my memory it revolved around her. "Oh no," she said, "I always felt like the outsider living on the periphery of the group." "Funny," I replied. "I always thought you were the centre of the group and I stood on the outside looking in."
There's that perspective thing again.
Yesterday, we drove south of the city into the rolling hills that nudge up against the feet of the Rockies. Bets exclaimed throughout the drive about the beauty of the scenery. The giant, razor-edged ridge of the Rockies sprawled against the western sky like a giant dinosaur sleeping beneath the fluffy white clouds that dotted the prairie sky in improbable perfection; an artist's rendering of what a perfect prairie day should be.
It was a day of adventure and relaxation. At a ford across the river, I hesitated, not sure of exactly how deep the water was. A man drove up behind me, his SUV equipped with running lights and fog lights. The roof of his vehicle was laden with a serious looking luggage rack, its heavy black frame capped with silver and chrome balls. "Oh good," I thought. "Someone who knows what to do."
The driver rolled down his window and shouted to me where I stood by the river's edge trying to peer into its murky depths.
"You crossed here before?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied. "But it wasn't this deep."
The man jumped out of his SUV. He was in his mid thirties, long pony-tailed hair, t-shirt, shorts and floppy sandals. He walked down to the water's edge. "There's supposed to be a concrete pad under there," he said, pointing to the point where the road disappeared into the rushing river waters.
"There is," I said. "But I can't see it. Not sure how deep it is."
Without another word, the man stepped into the water and began to walk across. He reached the other side, walked back towards me and as he stepped back onto the road, his legs red from cold, he said. "Doesn't look too bad. At the deepest it just comes up to my knees."
"Great!" I replied before hopping back into my Jeep. "Guess I have to go first," I said to Betts who waited excitedly for the action to begin.
She pulled out her camera. "Let's go!"
I put the car in 4 wheel drive and slipped into the water. "Klunk." I kept going. The water sluiced up around my front wheels. I watched for seepage into the vehicle compartment. I kept driving. Betts was laughing and clicking madly on her camera.
We reached the other side. I pulled over to the shoulder, Betts jumped out and started taking photos of the other vehicle crossing. The man reached our side of the river and stopped his car, jumped out and asked if we'd take a video of him crossing again.
"Of course," I said. "You waded across the river for us. Least we can do is take your picture!"
"Either of you want another ride across?" he asked.
Betts jumped at the chance.
I videoed. They crossed the river. Twice. We parted ways. A chance encounter between strangers sharing a moment on a river. We laughed at how such a simple act as fording a river could deliver such a sense of exhilaration, fun, excitement.
Perhaps its because we are so accustomed to staying out of the water when crossing over. Sort of like life. We travel its pathways and byways seldom stepping into the waters rushing beneath us as we skim the surface of life. It's only when we stop and step into the moment, let the waters rush around and through us that we feel the pull of gravity, that we get the sense of the power of life to transform every moment into an adventure worth living.
We had a great afternoon checking out scenery and art galleries. Cappucino in a Swiss cafe. A side trip down a dirt road that suddenly broke open when we reached the ravine that split the two sides of the valley apart. At the bottom, we found a Park that bore Betts' maiden name. We had to grab a picture of Betts' proudly standing beside a giant rock on which was affixed a bronze plague dedicating the park to her forefathers. "My mom would have loved to have seen this," she sighed.
I looked up into the sky. Grey clouds. White clouds. Blue intervals. A mottled ceiling. "You know Betts," I said giving her a quick hug. "You mother does. Remember, even when we were kids, she always knew what we were up to, but she never said a word."
We laughed. It was a memory we both lovingly shared.
Memories drift in and out of consciousness like the clouds. Some we share. Some are our's alone. But the people who have touched our hearts. Those who's memory warms us like cinnamon on warm butter toast, they are keepers. No matter how far from the past we've ventured, the memory of those who made a difference in our lives lingers on as we pull the threads of their voices through time, carrying with us the joy and knowing that they will always be there, tucked in the corner of our hearts, joyously warming our thoughts, even when the sky is cloudy.
It rained, and snowed, on our drive back. But it didn't matter. We were warmed by the memories we'd built this weekend as we shared a moment in time that will delight us in time to come.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
At one point, while we were walking and talking about a summer in Germany where we taught swimming together when we were 15, Bets mentioned that my memory seems so much better than hers. "You have a good memory," she said. "I don't remember the events like you do."
I had been thinking the same thing about her. "You have a good memory. I don't remember the things you do."
Memory is all in our perspective. Events and people that had significance for her are easily recalled. They're not the same events and people that held meaning for me. Together we fit the pieces of the past into a jigsaw puzzle that still holds missing pieces. Perhaps if we could find Georgette or Monty or Doug or Debbie we'd have a more complete picture of that time. Ultimately, the missing pieces are unimportant. Other than the value they hold for the one remembering, they do not impact this time together where we can be two friends whose lives touched long ago and whose paths have reconnected today.
This May 21st will be 4 years since the morning I woke up and was released from an abusive relationship by the police walking in and arresting the man to whom I was held captive with invisible bonds of fear and dread and self-loathing. Since that morning I have slowly and lovingly released the dark and painful ties that bound me to him and replaced them with the exquisite joy of my life today. When I look at that time when I was lost to myself and to those I love I see rainbow coloured ribbons gaily fluttering in the wind. I do not hold the events and happenings that led me to fall into his unloving embrace in place as much as I let them flow in and out of the riotous colour of my life today. I let the memories flow so that they do not hold me in place with fear of the past. I drown them in the beauty of my life today and set myself free.
The only power memory has is the meaning I bestow upon it. The events that led to May 21st, 2003 when I awoke to the devestation of my life and had to face the truth of what I had done to hurt those I love, are only memories. They cannot hurt me unless I choose to let them.
In healing, it is my responsibility to extract the learning from them and to leave their husks to be washed away by the sands of time. It is my responsibility to rebuild my life, reclaim my self and find the path to healing so that my daughters, my family and friends can also find forgiveness. In that process I accept I cannot change what happened or what I had done. I can only accept it as it was, and commit to being the best me that I can be without the fear of the past becoming my future.
When I was 12 and giggling with Bets about boys and dreaming about the men we'd one day marry, I could not envision the events of my life ahead. At 12 I could not imagine that one morning I would awaken to two blue and white police cars driving up and releasing me from the bonds of terror that kept me from stepping free of C.
I had no idea what life would become when I was 12.
But, I did know I wanted to understand me, to love me exactly the way I was and to be the best me I could be. It was then and continues to be the essential element of my journey today.
Throughout my life, understanding me has motivated me to fall into unloving arms. It has propelled me into unhealthy situations and it has driven me out of fear into the courage to be inlove with myself, exactly the way I am.
I cannot change the past. Like meeting up with Bets after all these years, the memories of what brought me here today form the warp and weave of my vibrant and joyous tapestry of life today. I can't alter them. I can only accept them and let them flow freely so that I can walk with grace and dignity through each moment of my day.
Some of those memories may be faulty. Some may be backwards or inside out or even upside down. They are only memories. Whims of fancy of a past I do not need to hold onto as long as I live each moment filled with love and joy and a healthy curiousity of what each moment means to me.
Meeting up with a friend, taking a trip, saying good-bye to a lover, walking into a new relationship are simply events that become stepping stones in my quest to be the most awesome me I can be. In that process I share the best of me and let the rest become memories of who I was when I couldn't see the essential light of me.
We all have memories we cling to that explain why we are the way we are today. It isn't the memories that make the difference, it's what we do when we are free of them that states unequivocally, we are miracles of life, wondrous beings on the journey of our lifetime, children of God, of Yaweh, of Mohammed, of a Divine Force, a Higher Power, miraculous beings of light.
May your day be filled with the knowing that whatever happened in the past is nothing compared to the magic that awaits you today when you step freely into being all that you are meant to be.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
It was like time hadn't passed. Other than we don't know each other's stories -- much. We've shared through letter and emails over the years but not the deep down hurting blue stuff. And yet, we picked up as if time was of no consequence. As if a continent between then and now didn't matter. As if 12 to 50+ meant nothing. And it doesn't.
There's that wonderful expression about 'some people come into your life for a moment, some for a lifetime." A good friend, whether in person or just in memory, is there for a lifetime.With Bets, the personality traits, the shared perspectives, the core essence of our beings that made us friends in Grade 7 in France, are the same aspects of our personalities that make us recognize each other as someone we enjoy spending time with now. What an awesome gift to share.
That's what friendship is. It's not time sensitive. It doesn't come with a best before date. It doesn't expire in bad times or run off with your boyfriend in good times. It threads itself through my life, weaving a powerful tapestry of what is most important to me in my life. Integrity, loyalty, kindness, caring and love.
Last night Bets shared a regret she still carries from Grade 7 when she inadvertently hurt another girl in our class. I told her my story of carrying a regret for years, being angry with a girl when I was 16 who stole my boyfriend, only to discover, many years later, that, Sue, the girl I thought had dated my boyfriend after me, never had. The Sue who did date him, insisted she didn't steal him, we had broken up. It wasn't what I remembered. My truth was different than hers. My 'truth' was based on faulty memory. What astounded me in that memory was in my head, I saw the first Sue and my boyfriend walking down a lane holding hands. I'd replayed that picture in my mind countless times and held the wrong Sue accountable for something that I had carefully placed in my memory bed like a stone blocking a rivers flow. It hurt me 30 years before, and in the intervening years I hurt myself with the pain of that memory when the memory wasn't even true.
How often do I do that in my life? Where do I hold onto a hurt refusing to let go? Whether the memory is accurate or not, holding onto the pain today hurts me now even more than it did back then.Letting go is critical to moving lightly and gracefully through life. Bets and I are sharing a weekend filled with laughter, of two women whose lives have grown and expanded and shifted from a school in France. Our lives are different -- the essence of who we are the same.
Our memories of that time fuzzy, faulty and sometimes just downright wrong. But, the people we were then have formed the foundation of the people we are now.
Memories, events, happenings pass.
People stay true to their core.
What an awesome gift.
Friday, April 13, 2007
As he maneuvered his way into a wheel chair positioned beside the bench, a white car pulled up in the lane in front of him. A woman slowly eased her way out of the car. Her body moved with the careful deliberation of an old woman trying not to disturb the arthritis eating at her bones. She looked to be about 30. Dressed in jeans and a sweater, her clothes hung loosely from her slight body. In one hand she held a white plastic grocery bag. In the other a partially smoked cigarette let off steam. She hesitantly closed the car door behind her. She blew the driver a kiss, mouthed the words, "I love you," and took a drag from her cigarette as the car drove away. Slowly, she turned and walked towards the young man in the wheelchair. As she reached him, she pulled a small rectangular red packet from her bag and handed it to the young man. He smiled. His shoulders relaxed as he opened the packet emblazoned with bold black lettering that warned, smoking can kill you. She handed him a light and they both relaxed into a smoke filled moment.
I hadn't meant to intrude on this quiet moment between two cancer patients. I was sitting in the (Un)Loading Zone in front of the Cancer Clinic waiting for my girlfriend who had flown in from Vancouver that morning. Her mother had experienced a seizure the night before and been transported by ambulance from the southern part of the province where she lives. This Patient (Un)Loading Zone was the only spot I had been able to find to stop in while my girlfriend said her good-nights to her mother in the hospital.
I hadn't intended to be a voyeur. I hadn't intended to witness this moment between two people for whom the bond of smoking and cancer was inextricably linked. Watching the tableau in front of me, however, I felt saddened by the gravity of the situation these two individuals faced, and the reality that even in the face of death, smoking is a powerful addiction.
A few years ago, my eldest sister was in the hospital for a month. Unable to sustain long periods of time out of bed, she gave up smoking. Forever. What an awesome gift for herself, and to those of us who love her and want her to stay in this world, healthy, vibrant -- and a little bit longer than the self-prescribed exit date stamped on a cigarette pack.
Watching the young man and woman share their habit, I wondered if a cigarette pack has an expiry date. I wondered what happened to hospitals being Smoke Free zones. I wondered how we justify smoking as a means of relaxation. And I wondered what I would do in the same predicament. Would my desire to live scare me out of smoking or would my fear of dying scare me into holding onto an addiction I knew would eventually kill me. Would I be willing to claim my right to living fearlessly, or would I play Russian Roulette, pulling out a death laden cigarette, while pulling along my drug laden IV trolley, challenging both to 'get me first'.
If the addiction is greater than the fear of cancer I wonder what it would take to make someone quit smoking.
I'm still wondering.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
You're sitting having coffee with a good friend. She's complaining about an incident at work where a co-worker, once again, has stolen her ideas and gotten the promotion she was looking for. It's time for me to quit, she says.
You listen and smile and make supportive remarks; all the while thinking about how this is such a recurring drama with this friend -- Every time you get together she talks about what’s wrong in her life and how the world is to blame for her problems.
To show her your support you:
- Pass the Kleenex box and let her have a good cry.
- Agree with her that this person is a real b***h and help her plot her vengeance.
- Tell her about the great job at your firm for someone with her exact skills and promise to get her an interview (while thinking you’ll have to lie later about the fact the job is already filled).
- Tell her she needs help and give her the name of your therapist.
- Do nothing except pat her hand and mutter, there, there, while she pulls out her own Kleenex box.
- Tell her your tale of woe about the time the same thing happened to you as you both pull out voodoo dolls of the co-worker who done you wrong.
- Look at your watch; realize suddenly you're late for an appointment, quickly gather your things, jump up and walk away promising her you’ll call soon while promising yourself you'll never call this friend again.
We’ve all been there. Where we sit by and let someone spin their tale of woe, blame the world for everything wrong in their lives and either identify with what they’re saying, or secretly think about how boring, tiring, frustrating it is to deal with this person, all the while promising to stay friends forever.
Sometimes, we’ve been the one doing the whining, soliciting support from those around us as we justify why we have the right to feel so badly about our lives. We coerce others to support our bad behaviour by encouraging their tacit agreement that we are right to feel the way we do.
Years ago, a girlfriend asked me to read a letter her fiance had written her about their relationship and a situation that was jeopardizing their upcoming nuptials. She wanted my support. She wanted me to rally with her in condemning this man as a callous, unfeeling, mixed-up, shallow man with no capacity to love or do the right thing. I wanted to defend my friend and support her and help her clear her thinking on whether or not she should go through with the marriage. (Did I mention I had all the answers and knew what was best for my friend?)
I started to read the letter and realized I was reading something very personal in which this man was baring his soul and revealing to her his deep pain. My friend was sitting beside me, eagerly waiting for my comments. I remember hesitating, thinking about telling my friend, I didn’t want to keep reading the letter. I feebly tried to hand her the letter back and redirect the conversation but she was adamant. I needed to read the letter to see how ridiculous this man was. So, I skimmed the letter. To not read it risked making my friend angry. And I didn’t want to do that. In my fear of my friend’s reaction, I took responsibility for her feelings and let go of my own. I made myself a victim and compromised my truth, my values, my principles to appease a friend.
Whether or not she was or wasn’t behaving like a victim was not my issue. I was responsible for my actions and words. Setting myself up as a victim hurt me, and our friendship as I did not honour my friend with the truth. I was more worried about losing her friendship than of being a good friend.
Years later, my desire to placate someone led me into an abusive relationship that resulted in enormous pain and suffering for everyone involved. My unwillingness to be true to myself, led me into giving into a man who’s values and morals were completely opposite of mine. But, because I was afraid to speak up, to stand in my own truth without fear of the outcome, I gave up on myself and gave into him and became the ultimate victim.
Most of my life I played a good show of not being ‘the victim’. I was never a whiner and was very adept at criticizing other people while making it sound like I wasn’t. I didn’t go on and on about why other people were to blame for all the problems in my life, and I didn’t point fingers when things went wrong. Didn’t matter. I was still a victim. Because, I didn’t stand up for me. I didn’t take responsibility for myself. I didn’t hold myself accountable for myself. I was unwilling to risk jeopardizing the opinions others had about me by challenging situations and circumstances that I knew to be unfair, untrue, and unjust. I was more worried about ‘making someone mad at me’ than I was about speaking what was true for me and thus, honouring my principles, morals, values, ethics and beliefs. I lacked integrity.
Letting go of my victim’s role requires a daily commitment to do what is right. It requires a daily commitment to act with integrity, to being fearless in my commitment to stand in my own light. It requires that I honour my truth by honouring the world around me with dignity and love.
It means I have to turn up, pay attention, lovingly speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome.
Somedays, like last week when I forgot my wallet and was upset because my daughters wouldn’t drop everything and bring it to me, my high horse rides up and carries me away before I even realize I whistled for him to rescue me. On those days, no matter how far down the road of self-denial I might be, it is my responsibility to stop the ride, dismount and recommit to acting with integrity in all things I do (and to apologize and make amends as necessary). There are also days when I just like the drama of blaming the world for what I’m unwilling to take responsibility for. On those days, I need to step out of my shadow and claim my place at centre stage where I am accountable for myself, -- good, bad and indifferent – so that I can love myself, exactly how I am and where I’m at so that I can move into my integrity and light without fear that I am less than or other than who I am meant to be.
Being a victor in my own life means standing in the centre of my ‘eye’ – regardless of how fiercely the winds howl around me. It means accepting absolute responsibility for myself and honouring my process of becoming the wondrous me I am meant to be. It means acknowledging that I am the creator of every situation in my life, -- good, bad and indifferent. If I don’t like where I’m at, it’s up to me to take ACTION and redirect my energies towards where I want to be.
It means, claiming a victor’s mentality and working arduously towards my goal of being the best me I can be, exactly the way I am, every moment of every day.
I will never have the answers for anyone else, no matter how much I think I do. My answers work for me because they are comprised of my learning, my experiences, my courage, strength and belief in my right to be all that I am meant to be. When I shift my focus to looking after someone else’s right to be centre stage in their own life, or expect someone else to help me claim centre stage of my own life, I abdicate responsbility for myself and put myself in the victim’s role.
My role is as the victor in my own life. To claim that right, I must turn up for me, in all my pain, confusion, joy and laughter and live fearlessly at centre stage.
What’s your role?
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
There's a lesson for me in that. Take care of myself throughout the day. Don't put it off until later.
Procrastination is deadly. I put off eating yesterday, telling myself I'd get to it later, and at the end of the day, I sabotaged myself and went to bed angry that I had let myself down -- and the cycle continued as I told myself, tomorrow will be better.
Tomorrow is now today -- and my opportunity to do better.
I agree with Lisa Anderson who wrote, “Fear stops a lot of people. Fear of failure, of the unknown, of risk. And it masks itself as procrastination.”
Is it losing weight I fear, or the focused attention I require in order to lose weight? Am I not procrastinating as much as being lazy?
Weighty questions on an emtional issue, but then, weight loss is an emotional issue. It is tied into my emotional fibre, into my habitual thinking, my belief systems about what I do or do not deserve.
Statistics show that only 1 in 20 people who buy a self-help book, take a seminar or listen to a CD will ever complete the whole thing. It's not that we don't want to make the changes, it's just that we want the changes to happen without our having to change. On the flip side of that coin, when I ask myself, Which group do I want to be part of, the 1 or the 20?, my answer is automatically, I want to be the successful 1. Reality tells me I'm part of the 20! What's holding me back?
According to Mark Joyner, a motivational speaker and writer, our self-limiting beliefs and attitudes hold us back from achieving greatness. These beliefs can be placed into 11 main categories that result in our mental attitudes which set us up for failure:
1) Self-Image - this is who I am, this is how I eat.
2) Failure Magnified - failures are mentally magnified and given life through attention, making success feel impossible, causes hopelessness
3) Blame - not feeling responsible/blaming outside influences for failures/situations
4) Doubt - disbelief in your ability to succeed/get job done
5) Positive Anchors - positive feelings/associations to (foods, restaurants and tastes) that do not support your goal
6) Negative Anchors - negative feelings/associations to (foods, people and tastes) that are supportive toward achieving your goal
7) Worry - focusing primarily on what is not perfect/what could go wrong (tastes, textures, colors, missing out)
8) Job Is "Huge" - the inability to mentally "chunk down" responsibilities into easy to handle individual tasks -precursor to doubt (the rest of my LIFE doing this?!)
9) Mistakes Are "Huge" - blowing up to the impact of mistakes, setbacks, delays
10) Disasterizing - mental focus/looping of the worst possible outcomes
11) Physical Symptoms - disease, shaking, panic, sleep problems, digestive problems caused by negative stress programs.
Joyner professes that every situation in our life can be measured against these categories. Not getting the success at work you want? Perhaps it's because you make a habit of blaming others or doubting yourself. Not finishing that project you keep saying you need to do? Perhaps it's because you make a habit of catastrophizing every situation focussing on the sheer magnitude of what needs to be done.
When I start to measure my reality against the list, I see where my thinking stinks!
There's only one thing I can do. Clean up the mess -- unless I choose to live with the stink!
Reality is, I don't want to live with the sour stench of fuzzy thinking. I want to get real in my life.
The only way to do that is to accept reality, as it is, not as I'd like it to be. The joy of accepting what is means I don't have to pretend I'll get to it later. I don't have to pretend I can change it... tomorrow. I want to be part of the successful group. I want to be the 1 not the 20. To do that requires I look at the self-limiting beliefs, that I take responsiblity for myself right now and throughout the day and turn up for me.
Focussed attention, I can do it. I accept my habitual thinking gets in the way of my achieving my goals. I accept I can take charge, right now!
I create what I fear. To change my habitual thinking, I chose to be aware of what I'm thinking so that what I do reflects my goal, not my fear. When I fear not sticking to my goal of losing weight, I am focussing my attention on the negative value. When I accept my fear, when I awake to it and stand in it, I no longer fear it.
So, for today, I will be the 1 who takes takes positive action and be all that I am meant to be.